Russian Mobile Phone Downloads Violate Copyright Law

September 2004

Record Labels, Music Publishers, Artists, Telecommunications

The leader of the popular Russian rock group Leningrad, Sergei Shnurov, has won a case focusing on intellectual property rights violation in Russia by the use of melodies in mobile phone ringtones. The Basmanny Court of Moscow court has ruled that S.B.A. Music Publishing, a subsidiary of the Gala Records company, must pay 100,000 roubles to Sergei Shnurov for violating his intellectual property rights by issuing a permission for mobile phone companies to use Shnurov’s music for mobile phones and karaoke, Gazeta reports. Without the musician’s consent, S.B.A. concluded contracts with companies co-operating with mobile phone operators and gave them the right to adapt compositions of the Leningrad leader for mobile phone melodies. No recording rights were involved as the mobile operators would produce their own ‘recording’ for phone ringtone use. One Russian mobile phone operator, Beeline, alone downloaded $90,000 worth of Shnurov’s songs in early 2000-February 2004. Shnurov estimated his losses at $40,000, but the Basmanny Court found this figure too high and ruled to pay him less. Russian recording companies will now have to be more careful about adapting people’s music.

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